Friday, July 20, 2018

Eagle Butte
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Know how heat works, celebrate summer safely


Don’t let the heat chase you inside; be prepared to have fun

In the cold winter months, when a down coat, furry boots, a ski mask and mittens still cannot protect against the below zero temperatures, summertime heat beckons like grandma’s cooking.

However, there are times, once summer arrives, the heat chases people into air conditioned rooms or in front of the false wind of fans.

This summer’s storm activity has brought much needed rain along with some sultry humidity — especially this week, when the heat index is supposed to rise into the danger zone of  95 to 105 degrees.

That measure of humidity means there is a high heat index, which can make a 90 degree day feel like 105 degrees. When the heat index is low, the humidity in the air is low, and we often refer to that as dry heat.

Dry heat feels more like the hot air wafting from your oven. Humidity feels more like the sauna at the fitness center or heat steaming up an inipi, or sweat lodge.

Technically, humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air, and according to Scientific American, the amount of humidity is measured using an equation taking the actual vapor pressure in the air divided by the saturation vapor pressure.

There is a saturation point when the water vapor starts to condense into water drops.

That moment is also called the dewpoint temperature,and it happens when the water vapor and saturation vapor are equal.

Meteorologists determine the heat index by measuring the dew point and water vapor balance in the air.

Humid air may cause hair to frizz or flatten, but that’s the least of a person’s worries on extremely humid days.

High humidity can cause the body to sweat. Since the air is already full of moisture, the sweat is not going to evaporate as quickly as it would in dry air, making it harder for the body to cool down.

When the body is unable to cool down, different levels of heat illnesses, such as heat rashes, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke can occur.

To prevent heat illnesses, people need to hydrate by drinking a lot of fluids, preferably water, or eating foods that contain a lot of fluids, such as cucumbers, watermelon, cantaloupe, avocados and bananas.

Avoid alcohol, coffee, tea and colas which are diuretics that make it hard for the body to stay hydrated.

Heat-related  illnesses occur because the body has lost water and salt, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website.

The severity of the illness results from the amount of water and salt the body has lost.

A heat rash is a minor heat illness, requiring a person to move to a cooler environment, apply a cold press and keep the rash area dry; whereas the heat stroke is on the other end of the spectrum, requiring immediate medical attention.

A person suffering heat stroke may show initial symptoms of excessive sweating, and red, hot, dry skin. They may also show signs of confusion, or may faint or have a seizure.

If you notice someone suffering from any of these symptoms, OSHA says that you should call 911 immediately, move the person to a cool area, hydrate him or her, loosen clothing, apply cold packs to the armpits, wet the person down and fan him or her.

Recognizing the different symptoms of a heat illnesses and knowing how to respond to them could go a long way in helping prevent serious complications.

Heat stroke untreated, or not treated immediately can cause damage to the brain, heart or kidneys, and could lead to death.

From working on the ranch to swimming in our rivers, the summer sun and warm air provides the best environment for outdoor work, and invites us to swim, boat, and fish, and play volleyball, soccer and softball.

Whatever your purpose under the sun, bring your water, eat foods that will keep you hydrated, and keep an eye on friends, family, neighbors and colleagues as the heat index rises over the West river plains.

For charts of the heat index and heat illnesses, turn to page 2 of this section.